Come, Follow Me: Angels and Demons

Jude provides examples of our potential to be great or malignant.

The Come, Follow Me curriculum this week covers to 1-3 John and Jude. While there are numerous resources for understanding the epistles of John (which you should definitely consult as you study these books), Jude is more of an enigma.

Many books in the New Testament focus on what it means to be Christian, and the new elements of faith that differentiate worship in the meridian of time from worship in the days of Abraham, Israel, and Moses. Alterations in dietary restrictions, circumcision, and the introduction of Melchizedek Priesthood ordinances all contribute to the sense of change that coincided with the coming of the Son of God.

That having been said, it was the same Son of God who commanded Noah to build an ark, who covenanted with Abraham, and whose finger carved the law into the tablets Moses carried down Horeb. The warnings of Jude, which carry so many Old Testament messages, help us understand the coming of Christ did not cancel millennia of God’s dealings with men; in fact, they make the stories of ancient Angels and Demons applicable in the age of fiberoptics and skyscrapers.

Consider this passage:

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

This reference to fallen angels is a rare look at one of the most important truths of our faith – the fact that there was a first estate before the earth was created. The Pearl of Great Price gives additional clarity to this reference; describing the unfolding of a grand plan and the rebellion of certain individuals (the angels Jude referenced) who did not keep their first estate.

Of course, the chief of these angels who abandoned their place with God was Lucifer – and those who betrayed their Father are not gone. There are, among us, these same spirits. Though their fate is just as Jude declared, they seek to bring us down with them.

Though the devil does not possess a body, he is more than a mischievous whisperer. Jude references a passage not found in our Old Testament canon: “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

In Jewish tradition, there are several great archangels, including Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. All three of these individuals are genuine angels of great power. In spite of this, Michael did not directly attack the devil; but invoked the power of God. There is an important lesson here. Any man who believes himself “strong enough” to resist temptation or overcome the devil is a fool. He has been doing this for a long time, and he is as skilled as he is persistent. There was only ever one who was stronger than him.

Another example that illustrates this point can be found in the First Vision. Because of the power of Satan, Joseph Smith thought he was going to die: “…not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being…”

Jude’s warning should carry equal weight. Satan and those who get tangled up with him put themselves in terrible danger. We have enough peril when striving to stay as close to Christ as possible.

Jude adds additional examples to make the same point:

Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.

All three examples, Cain, Balaam, and Core, were men who could have been good but walked the demonic path instead. Cain’s story is fairly well known, but it is worth examining the other two.

First, consider Balaam. He was a prophet in the days of Moses, who was hired to prophesy against Israel. The account in Numbers 22-24 describes the initial temptation, which thanks to an Angel and a donkey, Balaam was able to overcome. The tragedy came later, when, apparently still enchanted by the promise of wealth, Balaam taught the enemies of Israel the protection of God was conditional upon their obedience to His laws; thus causing the Israelites to sin would bring their defeat. For a prophet to teach temptation is truly sad because Balaam could have been more than he ended up.

Second, Core is a New Testament spelling of Korah, who, in his pride and envy, rebelled against the leadership of Moses:

Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?

Korah was there when the waters of the Red Sea were divided. He was present to witness manna fall from heaven. But he could not keep himself from finding fault with God’s chosen prophet. Instead of partaking in the promises God covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he made himself an example of what not to do. The earth opened up and swallowed Korah and all those who stood with him against God and his prophet.

Jude uses these examples to plead with us to stay close to God, to warn about pride, envy, greed, and lust – the motivations which drove those who could have been angels to become demons.

Thousands of years later, we stand in the latter days with the same potential as these people had; and we can choose to behave like angels or like demons.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland perhaps said it best:

The future of this world has long been declared, the final outcome between good and evil is already known. There is no question as to who wins because the victory has already been posted on the scoreboard. The only really strange thing in all of this is we are all still down here on the field trying to decide which team’s jersey we want to wear.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Email correspondence to John Bytheway, 1 June 2004

Follow the counsel of Jude. Fight your demons, that you might become like angels.

Supplemental Reading:

Brett Jensen manages The Ward Preacher. You can follow him on Twitter @wardpreacher.

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